Chapter 2 – Walter
Walter hurried home after school. He usually studied in the school library for a half hour to give Sienna a chance to get to the pool, but today he wanted to make sure that everything was ready. He arrived at his white- brick house. “Mom, I’m home.”
“I’m upstairs.” He followed her voice into the sun room. “You’re home early.” She was sitting in the white wicker chair bathed in sunlight from the floor to ceiling window.
“I felt like getting my chores done.”
She raised her eyebrow. “Are you feeling alright?”
Walter grinned. “I have a girlfriend coming over after dinner. I mean a girl, who is a friend.”
She smiled. “That’s wonderful Wally. Who is she?”
“Her name’s Sienna and…” He wanted to say ‘and she’s gorgeous.’ But Mom might share that comment with Sienna. “She’s my partner for a history report.”
Mom reached up and squeezed his hand. “That’s wonderful.”
Walter raced through his chores, then went and cleaned his room. He wasn’t allowed to have girls in his room, but he didn’t want her to catch a glimpse of his dirty room through an open doorway. The he went to the sunroom, he sat in a wicker chair across from his mom.
“Mom will you do me a favor?”
“What’s that Walter?”
“Please don’t tell Sienna I’m adopted? I want to tell her my own way.”
“If that’s what you want, sure honey.” Mom said.
Walter opened his book. He was reading The Hunt For Red October, but he had trouble concentrating. He kept picturing Sienna’s smile, her bright blue eyes and her caramel-colored hair. His fingers stretched for a pencil.
The doorbell rang. Walter put down his book and walked downstairs. Sarah, his little sister, shouted from the living room. “Wally! Your girlfriend is here.”
Walter paused on the stairs and took a deep breath. Why did he even like her? She wasn’t a mermaid. He felt the necklace under his shirt. He turned the last corner of the stairs. Sienna was standing in the middle of his white slip-covered living room looking at his family’s portrait, they had taken it the day his adoption had become official.
Walter was standing in the back, right behind his adopted mother. Sarah was next to their father. And Walter’s brothers were on the other side of his mother. Walter walked over to Sienna. Her caramel-colored hair was straight and loose down her back. It was still damp from pool practice. He could feel the moisture in the air increase as he walked toward her. “That’s my family.”
Sienna didn’t flinch. “That’s a great picture, but the woman from your drawing isn’t your mother, so who is she?”
Sienna turned as Walter felt his cheeks warm. She turned back to the picture. Walter didn’t know what to say. He wasn’t going to tell her his secrets. Sienna turned back to him. “Were you adopted?” She blurted out. “I’m sorry. You don’t have to answer. Your picture, you look a different then your brothers and your sisters.”
Sienna was perceptive if she had seen that he was adopted from a picture. Walter studied the photo. His jaw line didn’t match his brothers or his father. His hair color was brown like his family, but it was a darker brown and finer. His eyes were different, more shaded, and darker.
When he finally spoke his voice was almost a whisper. “I was adopted.”
“When were you adopted?” She asked.
“I was adopted July 17th, this last summer.” Walter said.
“You were adopted this summer?” Sienna sounded surprised. “What happened to your parents?”
“They passed away a few years ago.”
“I…” She was quiet.
Walter wanted to smooth over the awkward moment. “Come on in the kitchen and we’ll get started on our history report. Where’s Brad?”
Sienna followed him into the kitchen. “He has a student government activity tonight. It’s just us.”
Walter felt his heart skip a beat.
It was so strange to see Sienna sitting here at his kitchen table. They were reading about the Red October Revolution. At least Sienna was reading. Walter was pretending to read. He had already read the section completely before she arrived. Reading was still hard for him. He didn’t want distractions like reading while she was here. He glanced at her again. She was biting her lip as she concentrated on the page, her eyes darting from side-to-side.
She glanced up and saw him watching her. “Are you done reading already?”
“Yeah.” Walter said.
Her eyebrows came together. “You must read really fast.” She continued with her reading.
The comment she had made in the living room about the drawing not being his mother had been ironic. He had drawn his mother at school. She was one of the reasons he had started drawing as soon as he had been introduced to the smooth perfection of white paper and pencils. He hadn’t wanted to forget her face. He had no photographs of her. He touched his shirt where his necklace made a bump.
“Why do you do that?” Sienna asked.
His heart went faster. “Do what?”
“Why do you touch your necklace? May I see it?”
Walter thought of bringing it out to show her, just to see her stunned reaction. He hadn’t even shown his necklace to his adopted family. One didn’t flash around a three-carat diamond. He turned away from her. “It’s personal, it was my parents’.”
“It’s shaped like an eye.” She was still looking at the diamond’s bump under his shirt.
Walter hunched forward to hide its shape. “Why do you like to swim?”
“How do you know I’m a swimmer? Is it the green in my hair?” She tugged on one of her caramel-colored strands draped over her shoulder.
He laughed. “There’s no green in your hair, just seaweed. I see you at the pool practicing, everyday after school.”
“I love the feel of the water, the way that it flows over my skin.”
Walter gave a shudder of revulsion.
“You don’t agree with me.” Her lower lip pushed out.
Walter shook his head. “I don’t like pools. They’re disgusting.”
Sienna wrinkled her nose. “Do you swim at all?”
“Not anymore.” As soon as the words were out, he regretted them, now she would ask questions. “I’ve never swam in a pool.” He clarified.
“What about the ocean or a lake?”
Walter side-stepped her question, “There’s no ocean here, in Utah, and I’ve never swam in a lake.”
“Would you like to learn how to swim?”
Walter ached to say yes, especially if she would be his teacher. “Not really.”
“Anytime you change your mind, come to the pool, I’ll teach you for free.” Sienna offered.
“I’m not interested.” He was so very interested, but he didn’t know how he would react to pool water. And he couldn’t take off his shirt without revealing the diamond. And he couldn’t take off the diamond without changing back to his true form. And his true form would… well it would be a problem.
She shrugged. “I can’t imagine not knowing how to swim. It’s your loss.”
He almost groaned out loud. Instead he cleared his throat. “So what do you think of the Romanovs?”
They had a good start on their history report. Sienna looked at the clock. Walter saw it was nearly nine. “I’ve got to go, I have early morning practice.” She said.
“You swim in the mornings too?” Walter asked.
“I swim morning, night and daytime too, during the summer.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
Chapter 2 – Walter